49 Trouble in Paradise
The shattering of Casper’s little delusional paradise came so stupidly. Bloody stupid, Cain’d say, but fuck thinking about him right now.
Fuck thinking about him, like Casper could actually stop. Like he wasn’t a cancer in Casper’s fucking brain, eating away at neurons and matter until all that was left was a primordial gloop of mushy obsession.
That’s all there had been for days, and like the biggest idiot on the planet, he’d indulged in it. No more kisses, but those touches came so free now, and the smiles…
Casper’s breath choked up in his chest, heavy and wet as the rain-drenched earth. The trees above his head spat cold water on him, and the soil had soaked through his socks and squished between his toes.
Didn’t matter though. Only thing that mattered was that his chest had no fucking right aching like this. Like someone had jammed a fucking crowbar between his ribs and each jerk of it gored through the flesh behind them as it snapped the bones one by one.
No right at all.
Not for Cain.
But how could it not when it made that smile not Casper’s smile anymore. Like it ever had been. Made him the fucking idiot forgetting the delusion in the first place, forgetting that he wasn’t Casper, never had been fucking Casper, had always been just another one of those lost boys.
The image still stained his mind. Fresh glut of rot smeared over his brain and his bones and his heart.
Cain, stood by that cabinet in his study, and Casper had slipped in the open door, silent, slow, a fuzzy little thrill under his tongue imagining the way Cain would growl and sweep him off his feet when Casper startled him. There’d been a picture in Cain’s hand, worn around the edges and a hint of blazoned colour glossy across the front, and in the other, a glass of whiskey raised to his lips.
Tears had pricked Cain’s eyes, little diamonds drinking up the dazzling day.
And Casper’s chest just dropped out, hadn’t stopped dropping out. Like in those cartoons where the trapdoor opens and the heroes all run with their feet as wheels in the air, a mad scramble for safety before in a big clang of noise, they go screaming, falling, plummeting into the black abyss below.
Didn’t have to see that picture to know who it’d be. Lost boy #1? Maybe #4, or could it be lucky #10 who’d really fucked him up? Twin darknesses swamped him and only one of them was halfway not fucking delusional.
That’s what that cabinet had always been. It’d be Casper’s final resting place too when Cain got bored or Casper violated some sanctified trait of the crazy and marked himself Lost Cause #11. Probably fucking teeth in there. Hair. Skulls. Skin.
Then the next thought overwhelmed him. The first had been a beast, but there was always a bigger monster, and this one swallowed the first in a maw so gargantuan it made little more sustenance than a single plankton to a whale.
Stupid fucking Roach, crazy never loved you. Crazy always loved the hallucination where your face should be.
He’d run. Cain had shouted after him, but so soon it’d drowned in the screaming in his skull and the pounding blood through his brain. Run, Roach Boy, run. Far away from your psycho nutjob as his prison allows. Run and maybe you can pretend you’re free. You’ve never in your miserable fucking life been free.
Down amongst the muck and the rotting leaves and this bit of the garden he hated because it stunk of failed dreams: a gazebo half-raised and too many fallen trees.
Cain wouldn’t look for him here.
Until of course he did.
Casper didn’t hear him come, too caught up in the pantomime theatrics of almost but not quite, never quite, couldn’t quite fucking cry. Shuddering shoulders, the weight that crushed the sockets around his eyes to throbbing shards, his breath so choked up he couldn’t breathe. Because Cain didn’t really—
Casper moaned into the hands pressed over his mouth, curling deeper into his shuddering ball of deluded regret. Branches crunched behind him, the rustle of leaves unfurling with spring. Should be warmer, but all of him felt so, so fucking cold he couldn’t take it. Couldn’t breathe. A hand clutching his throat to the size of a straw.
“Oh, Cas…” A hand settled on his shoulder. Trembling. What fucking right did this guy have to fucking tremble? Casper’s gorge surged up his throat and with a wordless hiss, he threw the hand off. Some wet, pathetic sound from Cain. “Cas? What is it, love? I—God, what are you doing out here? I couldn’t find you.”
Like that hadn’t been the fucking idea. The sorrow weighing on his velvet voice ground against all this pathetic wet in his chest. It’d been guarded, once. Locked behind an iron wall against the world, but this misery and these weeks of soft, sweet care had left that wall in pieces.
It was Cain’s fault. This was all his fucking fault, kidnapping him and imprisoning him and being so stupid fucking sweet and lovely and making Casper forget everything grim and gritty and miserable in his fucking life. Forgetting that he was nothing but rot and foulness bubbling beneath a veil of leather that no one could ever possibly love the second they went more than skin deep.
And Cain only could because he’d never even prodded the skin to feel the way it rolled like a bag of boneless slime beneath the touch. Cain stared at the hallucination with smitten eyes and cradled it in feather-soft hands until the pane of prettily stained glass slipped and shattered to bare the ghoul beneath.
“I hate you,” Casper whispered to the black stain of night. “I’ve always fucking hated you.”
Some choked sound trapped in Cain’s throat and a backward step sounded in the wet squelch of rotting leaves. “I know.”
Good. Let him never fucking forget it. Let it haunt him until Casper finally fucking died. “Leave me alone.”
“No. I—I’d like you to come inside, Cas. It’s … It’s cold out here. Come get warm.”
Nausea swarmed around Casper’s gut. The peach-stained boy of yesterday screamed in his mind, battering his skull against the wall of reality while wasting with his need to return to the bliss-dream.
Casper’s voice cracked through the night the same as those petrified branches snapping underfoot. “Fuck off.”
“Cas, please. You must be freezing, please.”
Maybe Casper hated this place because it mirrored everything inside him. Dead, half-finished. Stuffed full of rotten, hopeless dreams. Cold water squirmed between his toes and slithered beneath his collar and he shuddered with it. The stink of organic decay wormed up his nostrils, choking him on the promise of death.
“I don’t deserve to be warm.”
That stupid fucking sound again. Heartbreak embodied on a whimper. It strained at the end, different to usual like some other frustration lay beneath Cain’s pretence of care. The sodden earth slurped at his shoes as he circled around in front of Casper, the polished shine of them all soaked and ruined with mud. Like he cared. Like he’d fucking run out here, and his voice all fucking raw like he’d cried when he couldn’t find Casper. He couldn’t care. He just fucking couldn’t really care.
“Please come inside, Cassie. I—I don’t like you all the way out here. Something—There’s something strange tonight and when I couldn’t find you, I thought—” Cain’s breath choked up in his chest, and Casper’s eyes crept up to his face, right in time with the dark shiver lingering through his spine. Something fevered haunted Cain’s features. Something scared.
Cain hiccupped when Casper met his eyes. “I just want you to be inside the house, love, then I’ll let you be. Please.”
“You’re scared.” The truth came on the way Cain flinched from the words, his outstretched, mud-stained hand closing to a fist. The shudder deepened, racking through Casper’s bones. It wasn’t because Casper might leave, not with these wards, and it wasn’t because Casper might kill himself again because he could do that just as well inside. He was scared of something else.
Cain. Power. Master Sorcerer. Devourer of hearts.